Cast Blog: #PROJECTRUNWAY

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En Garde!

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Kenley Blogs Episodes 510-514

On The Road

The Real Winner

The Final Showdown

Leanne Speaks!

Finale, Part 2

What's Next

Tim Responds To Your Comments!

Love Is In The Hair!

History Repeating Itself

Garden Of Locks

Nature Calls

Rock 'n' Runway

Rock Steady

Rock N' Runway

Suede: Rockin' Out

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Take A Bow

Transformation

Joe: Straight Talk

Working Girl

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Best Of The Best?

Written In The Stars

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What's Your Sign?

I Saw The Sign

A Designer's Dream

Fashion Inside Out

Stella: Lovin' The Leatha

Double 0 Fashion

No Leatha, Mo' Problems

Making The Most Of It

The Fashion That Drives You

A Softer Edge

Fasten Your Seat Belts

Show Some Love

It's All An Illusion

Daniel: Oy Gevalt!

Good Queen Fun

Drama, Drama, Drama!

Joe: All Aboard!

RuPaul: A Drag Race

En Garde!

Teamwork was a bit of a challenge this time.

On the runway, Heidi tells our eight remaining designers that for this challenge they are to create an avant-garde look that is inspired by their model's hair. She adds that this is an opportunity to push themselves as designers and "create something artistic and conceptual."

Back in the workroom, I inform the designers that, owing to the ambitiousness of this challenge, they will be working in teams of two. I determine who is teamed with whom by drawing their names out of our velvet bag. The teams have 30 minutes to determine whose model's hairstyle will be the inspiration for the design. Then we're off to MOOD with a budget of $300.

There are two days for this challenge. On the morning of Day Two, I had to make the most anxiety-provoking announcement of my entire Project Runway career: "Designers, you will be responsible for a second look, one that is a ready-to-wear complement to your avant-garde look." Gulp. Why was I such a wreck? Because, each team had so much work remaining on their single look, how were they going to handle this second aspect of the challenge? As I wrote last week regarding Christian: If looks could kill, then the designers' collective stares at me would surely have dealt fatal blows. In any case, we needed to return to MOOD to shop for the materials for this new look, for which each team was given an additional $50. Owing to our time constraints, only one member of each team was required to go.

The always-wonderful ever-patient Nathaniel Hawkins, lead stylist for TRESemmé, was the creative force for the models' avant-garde hairstyles and worked with the designers to determine the ready-to-wear hairstyles.

The legendary Italian designer Alberta Ferretti is our distinguished guest designer. She served to buoy the spirits of a group of very grumpy designers! raterunway_03_408_220x415.jpg

Christian wins! As the leader of Team Christian and Chris, Christian was awarded the win -- and immunity in the next challenge -- for the team's jaw-droppingly stunning work. Their avant-garde creation was as close to true couture as any design that's been created on the show. It was constructed of 45(!) yards of organza cut into countless layers of circles, and Marcia wore it with nothing shy of grandness. A four-foot high "wing" projected from her shoulder, also covered with layers and layers of organza. All of this was in a gorgeous color of cafe-au-lait. Even Nina was visibly swooning! Their ready-to-wear look included a beautiful sleeveless top with an exuberantly ruffled placket in the same color, paired with a rather lackluster pencil skirt with the most peculiar darts at the hips. C'est la vie. The ho-hum skirt didn't matter. Team Christian championed! And I'll add that this was a case of two heads -- and four hands -- being vastly better than one, because Christian and Chris had a truly synergistic collaboration. Bravo, guys! Or should I say, "Fierce!"

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Kit is OUT. As leader of Team Kit and Ricky, Kit was singled out as the member of the team who should own responsibility for the outcome of the team's concept and execution. Indeed, it was her concept and, additionally, she had Ricky infantilized throughout the entire process. Her concept was "nesting," owing to the bird's nest hairstyle of her model, Marie. Frankly, the only nest-like aspect to her avant-garde design that I could discern was the circular shape of the skirt, but that's a stretch. I was struck by how much the corset top, voluminous Southern-belle skirt, and apron overlay made me think of a poor man's Marie Antoinette dressed for her le petit hameau. It screamed "student work!" And the ready-to-wear look was like a poor man's Laura Ashley dress: a sleeveless mini-dress that looked like it was made for that same madame's maid. So, that was the theme: poor. Kit, we'll miss you. raterunway_07_408_220x415.jpg

Victorya and Jillian were Team Victorya, but there was conflict over who would lead, with neither designer wanting to play second fiddle. Although I respect Victorya's leadership position, it was clear that the lion's share of conceptual thinking belonged to Jillian. Her Vivienne Westwood-like trench epitomized the self-described theme: rebellion. Executed in a midnight fabric, it was lined in a red tartan. The coat was drop-dead stunning and impeccably executed. However, I was dubious about the jodhpurs and ruffle-smocked top executed by Victorya, but the judges loved it (chacon a son gout). raterunway_08_408_220x415.jpg

Back to leadership, please remember that the ready-to-wear look was not even given full consideration, let alone execution, until THE MORNING OF THE JUDGING! I was a white-knuckled wreck and had to keep repeating to myself about the two of them: "I can't want you to succeed more than you do...." In the end, succeed they did. The judges didn't have a clue about the almost-no-show of the ready-to-wear look. They loved the sweet asymmetrical midnight dress with tartan piping, thankfully. This was a big "Whew!" Congratulations, ladies! raterunway_01_408_220x415.jpg

Rami and Sweet P were Team Rami, and it was clear from the onset that Rami would lead. In fact, Rami's voice was the only voice he would listen to. For the avant-garde look, the team ended up with a Rami design -- a gown with a corset and a long, flowing train -- and a Rami execution, with the exception of Sweet P playing sous-chef and making those homely pants. So, the judges were presented with some stunning Grecian draping (surprise!). Was the look avant-garde? I didn't see it. It certainly didn't surprise me. It was the same Rami look that I'd seen before. But the pants were, indeed, unexpected and begged the question: "Why?" And if they were necessary, why not use a fabric that was more in keeping with the rest of the look -- something lighter, perhaps? raterunway_02_408_220x415.jpg

And when it came to the ready-to-wear look, Rami was happy to unshackle Sweet P and tell her to conceive and execute on her own. She did. And her ready-to-wear look -- a ruched/pleated mini-dress in stunning shades of gray and with a wide satin waistband -- was far more pleasing to the eyes than his avant-garde creation. Thankfully, they emerged from this challenge unscathed by the judges, but not without some bruises from each other.

Finale, Part 2

Impressive work by all but alas only one designer can win.

Well, for me, this episode was the Project Runway first among Project Runway firsts! Why? Because I served as a judge for the first time (and, hopefully, the last time) ever. Here's the back story: Bravo and the executive producers approached me before our Bryant Park show to say that there may be a problem with our guest judge and, consequently, how would I feel about filling in. At first, my response was a roll-up-your-sleeves and "make it work!" form of positive thinking, but as I contemplated the reality of it, I pushed back and refused. Consider the following: I still had another visit to the designers that night and there would be a considerable amount of time needed to support them in the morning before the show. How could I be both a mentor and a judge and service their needs appropriately and responsibly? I believed that I couldn't. So, to make a very long story a wee bit shorter, we ended Thursday night's bevy of phone calls in the following way: Bravo and the producers would ardently search for a replacement judge and I would return to my work with the designers assuming that I would not be a judge If I were to be needed in that role, then I wouldn't be informed of that need mere moments before the show. Otherwise, I could be perceived by the designers (and anyone else mind you) as being duplicitous and insincere. That would never do. Furthermore, Kenley and I were engaged in an semi-incendiary relationship, and the worst thing that could happen would be for her to lose and have me perceived as being the reason why. Oy! So, we know what happened: Our guest judge backed out at the last minute, a celebrity replacement couldn't be found on such short notice, and I filled in. With 10 minutes and counting until our show, Heidi came to me and asked, "So, you're ready to do this, no?" I replied, "To be honest, I don't know. I have an altogether different relationship with the designers than you and Nina and Michael have. I don't know." Heidi reared back and asked, "Tim Gunn, are you telling me that with all of your years of teaching you can't put your relationships aside and look at their work impartially? I thought about her wise words and responded, "Of course I can! Let's go!" We hugged and kissed and off we went.

Don't ever wish to be a guest judge on the show! To be blunt, I don't know how the judges do what they do and as well as they do: The collections pass by quickly, you have to wrap your brain around each piece of each collection immediately, and you have to come to terms with some comparative assessment right away. AND, I had the distinct advantage of intimately knowing the designers' work, yet is was still daunting. In any case, it really was very, very difficult. And there was one very important dimension to this process: seeing the clothes walk. Generally speaking, I don't see them walk. Rather, I see everything static on dress forms. Walking is an altogether different experience and it brings everything to life. So, in that sense, my experience with each designer's collection couldn't have been fresher and newer.

Here are my thoughts about the three collections: Leanne WINS, and what a win it was! We saw all of the conceptual content that really is at the core of Leanne's point of view, and we saw it tempered and orchestrated with precision. As I said to her during the home visit: "I always trust that you will present masterful technique, but can you give your work feeling, emotion?" This was her personal challenge. And she did it All of the strong architectural elements that are Leanne were clearly present, but her looks possessed a buoyancy and an ease, an effortlessness that belied each items structure. Furthermore, her collection was the result of superb editing; had she not brought her critical eye and judgment to each looks and its relationship to every other look, then there may have been a different outcome. Kenley presented a strong point of view and excellent execution, neither of which were surprises, and both of which were appropriately lauded.

I loved Kenley's textile choices and her hand-painting, which was a risky endeavor, and the silhouettes couldn't have been more her. But when the looks walked, they possessed a stiffness that I wasn't prepared to experience. Static on a dress forms, her looks beautifully captured the essence of her inspiration: "painting the roses red" from Alice in Wonderland. (When I made my home visit to her, Kenley resisted revealing her inspiration, which confounded me. When she finally relented, she gave me an epiphany. "Now I get it!" I declared.) But when the clothes walked on the runway, they retained much of their static appearance; that is, most of the looks moved like stiff pasteboard. I could see Kenley's collection emanating a major "wow!" factor in an editorial spread in Elle, but I had a hard time imagining how they would or could navigate and function in the real world. Still, I loved the fantasy aspect of the collection and its other-worldliness. Korto fully embraced her African heritage and her Americanism. Furthermore, she was successful embracing that goal, which is no small task, especially since the entire collection could have been a costume festival. Her silhouettes, alone, told her story, and when you add the colors, textures, and jewelry, her entire collection was uplifted. Color is nothing if not subjective, and I applaud her decision to step away from the expected and mix up her largely taupe palette with vibrant greens and blues. And the jewelry? Well, from my perspective it was all inextricable from the larger aspect of her point of view and, more particularly, to the individual looks themselves. I loved it. Is her collection for everyone or anyone? Of course not, but whose is?

Congratulations to all!